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End to some pandemic-era child care subsidies could make hiring harder

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Hughes, Stephanie
Publication Date: 
6 Nov 2023



To recruit and keep those teachers, Downtown Baltimore Child Care has prioritized payroll. The nonprofit organization, which has three centers across Baltimore, received just over $1 million in federal pandemic relief funds. The vast majority went toward wages. The deadline to spend those funds just passed at the end of September — the so-called “child care cliff.” There was over $37 billion awarded to hundreds of thousands of providers across the country. Now that the money is gone, it could affect providers’ ability to recruit and retain workers.

“It really was sort of this makeshift scaffolding that’s boosting up this — I think of it as a ramshackle mansion,” Elizabeth Pufall Jones with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California-Berkeley. “Those funds are now ending … so all of that scaffolding is going to fall down.”


Roberts-King said she’s fundraising and applying for grants to try to make up for the loss of federal funds. She’s also keeping an eye on costs — putting off replacing the windows, for instance — and giving smaller raises than she would have liked. 

“This past year, we had to do 4% for people who make less and 2% for people who make more, because that was what it took to get us over the finish line,” said Roberts-King. “And it wasn’t great news.”


“The pay in this career is not enough,” said Tiffany Thornton, a teacher with Downtown Baltimore Child Care. She loves the work, but said she still has to supplement her income.

“I’ve been here 20 years, and I still do side jobs. I babysit on the side, I do Instacart on the side,” said Thornton. 


But others have left the industry. There’s more than 38,000 fewer child care providers now than in February 2020.